Throwback Thursday: 5 Weird & Wonderful Products from Sea Otters Past

Apr 8, 2021
by James Smurthwaite  
There has already been plenty of new and exciting tech on display at Pond Beaver this year but we're definitely missing the eccentrics. The bevvy of small-scale manufacturers that patrol every trade show with a dream and a prayer looking to get their latest innovation in front of the cycling world. These unique passion projects can often be the stars of the show and, while they may never achieve the biggest success, anyone who is putting themselves out there to create something out of left-field is doing it right in our books. Here are five of our favourite Sea Otter mavericks:

RAM BIke's URT Chassis with a Linkage Fork

RAM bike and fork

Richard Sheppard is 6'6" and tips the scales at nearly 290 lbs so it's no surprise he struggles to find a mainstream bike that suits his needs. To remedy that, he instead decided to build himself something totally unique and this 180mm travel, URT, singlespeed full suspension with a linkage fork is the result.

The focus for this bike was to make it as efficient as possible so he went with a URT design. URT stands for Unified Rear Triangle and it had a short and turbulent cameo in the mainstream thanks to bikes such as the Klein Mantra. If you're interested in the intricacies of the design, you can read RC's deep dive here but the main advantage is that there's no pedal bob when a rider is attacking out of the saddle. Not only does this make for a bike that's lightning-fast under power but it also means that it can be run singlespeed without a chain tensioner. Although we wouldn't be telling the whole story if we didn't mention the descending drawbacks too...

RAM quadrilateral suspension fork
RAM quadrilateral fork

The linkage fork is inspired by a moto design by Valentino Ribi and it uses a four-bar linkage to create a nearly straight axle path, similar to a telescoping design but with much less stiction. Down below the fork is a massively wide front hub that is actually two Azonic hubs cut down and joined at the center so Sheppard could use two disc brakes to help with temperature management. This thing is wild!

Although Richard considers frame building as a hobby, a steady stream of like-minded customers may eventually force him to take up the TIG torch full time. For more info on the bike, click here.

Speedfil's Bike-Mounted Hydration System

Speedfil 2 hydration system 2015

Hydration backpacks have all but disappeared from riders' kit bags in recent years but are we missing a trick not transferring those dangling hoses to our frame-mounted bottles instead?

That's exactly what Speedfil thinks and it has designed its F2 bottle to make it a reality. Initially inspired by racers who would try to glug down as much liquid as possible at a feed station before tossing a bottle away, this system allows riders to fill up their bidon without stopping and drink it as and when they need.

Speedfil 2 hydration system 2015
Speedfil 2 hydration system 2015
Speedfil 2 hydration system 2015
Speedfil 2 hydration system 2015

(Clockwise) Speedfil's F2 bottle requires a sturdy cage. Use any water bottle to refill the F2 system through the self-sealing port. The F2 head screws onto most cycling bottles and an O-ring seal prevents leaking. Speedfil F2's bite-valve is attached to a recoil return-string to secure it to the bar

The cap sits on top of any standard bottle to add 8oz of volume and a self-sealing port through which the bottle can be filled. The lid also features a hose that routes up to the handlebar and can be used to drink the water without sitting up. The nozzle is attached to the bars by a spool so it returns to its place out of the way after use.

Speedfil is apparently a well-known name in the triathlon world where bottles like this are common but they haven't yet taken off in mtb in the six years since we first saw them. More info, here.

A Regenerative Braking eMTB

Free agent @heimbilt had this regenerative braking mid-drive drivetrain at the show in 2019. He says it has a 30% charge recovery compared to the 2-6% usually seen on hub motors.

The chain always has to move, so there are three freewheels and a heavily modified derailleur. It's basically a 9-speed fixed gear.
The throttle looks like a volume control. Spin indoors for 20 minutes, three times a week and the battery will be fully charged.

Ophidian Bicycles 2 Wheel Drive Bike

The best performing off-road cars are all AWD so why can't the same be true for bikes? Ophidian was founded in June 2009 with the aim of creating a 2x2 bike and we saw the result of their labors at the show in 2011. The main advantage touted by its designers is that it will boost your climbing performance as both wheels are capable of putting down power, however, we're not sure how much of that advantage would be counteracted by the extra weight.

Unfortunately, the company seems to have folded now but other brands have taken up the all-wheel drive mantle in recent years such as Double. Maybe one day the idea will stick...

Adaptrac's Traction Control for Mountain Bikes

Adaptrac handlebar array of air lines and housings.

If you like a clean cockpit, look away now. Adaptrac's adjustable traction control for mountain bikes adds a whole rat king to your bars to operate its complex but intriguing system. The basic premise is that a cannister of gas in your bottle cage is used to raise and lower your tyre pressures using a handlebar mounted remote. Adaptrac says, "Need more traction on a downhill slope? Press a toggle and drop the pressure to 25 psi. Another quick press and you’re back up to 55 psi for the next climb! Handlebar-mounted gauges give visual status of tire pressure at all times."

Adaptec multi

The system comprises of two patent pending hubs (or complete wheel sets), a CO2 tank, guages, handlebar controls and about 3 miles worth of cable. The complete kit costs $1,470 including a choice of 26" or 29" wheels. More info, here.

Adaptrac tech

Some things you just can t un-see.
See you again soon Sea Otter...

Pond Beaver 2021


  • 330 4
 Sometimes when people think outside the box, it reminds you of why the box is there in the first place.
  • 87 3
 and why the box has a snug, secure, sometimes lockable, lid.
  • 30 22
 Someone created that "box" to begin with, which may have replaced the box before it. There would be no progression if it weren't for free thinkers thinking outside of "it"
  • 65 2
 @GlassGuy: Relax your balls, Frank. Just having a laugh.
  • 14 1
 @ol-sidewinder: Looks like Frank doesn't like the box. Anti Box. Wyn Masters would be tingling knowing someone doesn't want to 'get on the box'.

For this related article, I'm quite the fan of the box.
  • 4 3
 @ol-sidewinder: We all need to relax, so that's not a bad piece of advise. Frank has a point there, too.
I just think that it's at the very least, it's entertaining to watch "free" thinkers try it.
Sometimes they are brilliant!
  • 13 0
 @ol-sidewinder: i had a long day of manual labor and your comment hit so right I:
A) snarfed beer out of my nose from sudden laughter

B) tried to actually relax my balls.

Sorry im over tired....
  • 3 0
 Pandora doesn't go back in the box, he only comes out.
  • 1 0
 @rip8569: certainly not a Jack, because we know he stays in the box. He lives in there
  • 1 0
 For sure I add it to my favorite aphorisms Smile Smile
  • 93 0
 All the ladies be checking out Sumo guy.
  • 25 0
 Not riding that after him . . . nope.
  • 17 0
 presses the Unsee buton several times>
  • 7 0
 Sumo guy is riding a Fat Bike. Chunky all round
  • 8 0
 One more reason to have only virtual trade shows from now on!
  • 10 1
 Eyes up here, ladies.
  • 4 0
 Burn that seat...
  • 1 0
 Can you get that sumo getup with a chamois?
  • 57 0
 The headtube says Trek but the cables say Scott...
  • 5 0
 Can confirm.
  • 2 0
 @dualcrownscottspark: I don't know, I'm feeling 2015 Cannondale Trigger/Jekyll
  • 4 0
 It's the most efficient way to make your headtube and fork crown raw so I hear
  • 8 0
 Upside is if you go over the bars that Adaptrac cable nest will keep you from ever hitting the ground.
  • 34 0
 I want a regenerating electric, 2WD, linkage URT bike with centrally-adjustable tyre pressures. With a water bottle attached to a hosepipe.
  • 23 0
 All joking aside, that hydration system isn't the dumbest thing I've ever seen. Specialized already can put a water bladder in the SWAT hole why not run a tube up? Tri bikes do it.
  • 10 20
flag noplacelikeloam (Apr 8, 2021 at 12:26) (Below Threshold)
 Because, unlike a tri bike, the mountain bike does bouncy things which will make you deep throat the shaft. Not everyones cup of tea.
  • 32 0
 @noplacelikeloam: but you don't drink while riding through the bouncy parts
  • 9 0
 Sram would lose it if we added more hoses to our bikes after the push for AXS haha
  • 9 0
 @me2menow: Sram's next new product:

All new, Wireless Water Bottle, complete with the All-new W.W system (wireless water)
No cables, No mess.
  • 4 0
 @me2menow: we just need the AXS hydration system. Just need to figure out that pesky water teleportation first.
  • 14 0
 @lyalltheweebeastie: it just sprays high pressure water at your face...
  • 3 0
 @lyalltheweebeastie: Maybe we can get a mtb IV bag? Then you don't ever have to drink.
  • 11 0
 @lyalltheweebeastie: Too late, Mother Nature beat SRAM to it. Calls it "rain".
  • 1 0
 @WY228: challenge accepted. ;-)
  • 28 0
 Speaking of thinking outside the box. Everyone seems fixated on getting water through your mouth. There is potential for a much shorter hose that won't clutter your handlebars.
  • 11 0
 @philrossnz: I see you are a man of culture.
  • 2 0
 @ScottB-408: about time Toto made an entrance into the bike industry.
  • 26 2
 Still looks better than a trust fork.
  • 2 0
  • 16 2
 2 wheel drive bikes neat idea, especially if e-bike tech powered front wheel and back wheel just conventional drive
  • 7 1
 Mid mount motor for the rear, smaller and lighter hub motor for the front. Way easy. Maybe I'll try out just that on a fatbike! I'll post about it on pb if I do
  • 1 0
 You could probably make some sort of e motor that fits neatly inside a fork lower and just has a cog or short chain into the hub.
  • 1 0
 The only issue is when it’s remotely steep there’s isn’t enough weight on the front wheel and it starts sliding around and deflecting, so unless power output to the front is varible to pitch or something it doesn’t really pan out
  • 13 0
 Should be titled "Abominations From Past Sea Otters"
  • 11 0
 I want duel sided disk brakes.
  • 5 0
 Need more photos of the URT linkage. That much force, torsion, side load, going through parallel links as the primary structure of the bike is scary...
  • 1 0
 i don't see the point and there's a long ass stroke shock there. why, the only thing it's good for is eating kerbs while sitting.
  • 1 0
 Yeah I had a couple URT bikes back in the day, a weird part of me wonders if this has the same pogo stick characteristics
  • 5 1
 The RAM bike is amazing. The problem is that it's too clever for most people to get. Not checked the exact placements of those pivots but I'm betting that they are designed so that the effective centre of rotation of the rear "triangle" is very close to the BB around sag (where you might be pedalling) and moves higher as it goes through the travel so you get a rearward axle path. This would mean it would pedal really well (not a like a single pivot URT bike).
The fork also looks like it would give a good axle path and provide a lot of anti-dive, as well as having negligable stiction to worry about so very active on small hits what's not to like?
Sure the devil will be in the detail, all the pivots and links need to be nice and stiff and well made but no reason they couldn't be..
  • 2 2
 @G-Sport: but it's urt. you stand up and bye bye suspension.
  • 2 1
 @G-Sport: When you are sitting, your weight is split between the front and rear suspension, the weight on the pedals is less and the suspension can be active. When you stand, all your weight is transferred to the swing arm and fork. For the suspension to be active while standing, the bump or force at the rear wheel must also overcome your weight before the suspension is activated. I had both a Trek Y3 and a Rocky Mountain Pipeline, both of which had a URT with the pivot above the BB and they performed in the way described.
  • 1 0
 @baca262: I had a mantra. This bike with the parallel links looks like it solves for the shortening of the wheelbase the mantra had during rebound, which resulted in the inchworm/pogo stick/bucking bronco effect going downhill. Also it is a bit unfair to characterize URTs as failed full suspension bikes. They have their unique attributes, like a tractor going uphill and a lively ride down.
  • 4 0
 @baca262: Wrong. In THAT specific case. The Virtual Pivot-Point is allmost in the BB, so it works the same if you stand up.
  • 1 0
 @baca262: @letsgoridebikes18:
No. With a four bar chain design like this you can set it so that the distance from the seat and the bars to the BB doesn't change through most of the travel. It isn't going to ride anything like a single pivot URT.
  • 1 0
 @Keepiru: @G-Sport:

that's some witchcraft
  • 1 0
 @Keepiru: @G-Sport:

but wouldn't that negate the benefits of urt? if the bb is static through the stroke it behaves as a conventional design?
  • 2 0
 @G-Sport: I found a video on YouTube that showed the suspension action and a very basic simulation, but it wasn’t clear how the load/rider was on the bike (sitting versus standing). I still don’t see it. Regardless of the VPP, it’s a matter of sprung versus unsprung weight. The issue is the riders body weight is unsprung weight while standing, whereas a more traditional design has the rider as sprung weight.
  • 2 0
 @letsgoridebikes18: if the swingarm effectively pivots around the bb it's just like a concentric pivot bike but that negates the pedal bob benefits of urt design. if it doesn't and the bb moves, it's a urt and will be unsprung when you're off the seat.

it seems that the bike is a bit more elegant version of gt's idrive.
  • 1 0
 @letsgoridebikes18: It looks like URT, but it is not really URT.
The rider is only unsuspended mass if the BB-hight stays the same while the suspension is compressed.
Which is not the case here. the whole rear part pivots more or less arround the BB.
It is no magic, just physics applied in a facinating way.

I really would love to test one of his bikes, but please with the possibilty for a dropper-post.
  • 5 2
 That RAM bikes guy is from around my area. He used to try and pitch his "innovations" to local riders out on the trails. Last time I saw him he was trying to get me to pedal around a steel single speed bike that had 180mm of travel, about a 60 degree head angle, maybe 20" high bottom bracket, and roughly a 65 degree seat tube angle all paired up with silly short chain stays. I politely declined and continued my ride.
  • 8 0
 Looks like you missed out. I would have loved to have given it a go.
  • 3 0
 why wouldnt you throw a leg over it just for shits and giggles.
  • 1 0
 I'm new enough to mountain biking that I've not seen this URT thing before. I know hindsight's a bitch, but come on... suspension that works when you sit down and not when you stand up? I'm not even sure I'd call it rear suspension... dual front suspension maybe?
  • 1 0
 No....not dual front suspension... suspension between your hands and your feet..... even more terrifying
  • 1 0
 Trek Y
  • 1 0
 Just for fun!

Consider 2, almost identical frames, with the same front end (main frame), the same rear end (suspension arm) and one suspension pivot located at the BB tube. Here is the only difference:

A) The first one (let us call it the “A” frame) has the BB welded ON the rear arm. The BB is enclosed within a pair, of so beloved, bearings, which are attached on the main frame, via the old ring & bold apparatus.
This is CLEARLY a URT, isn’t it? The BB is part of the rear suspension arm….

B) The other one (we will call it the “B” frame) has the BB welded ON the main frame (that’s the front part of the frame!). The BB is enclosed within the same pair of bearings, which are attached on the rear suspension arm via the old ring & bold apparatus.
CLEARLY this is NOT a URT frame! The BB is part of the main frame and not the rear suspension arm.

The difference will be more evident if we took apart those 2 frames. The “A” frame will be a URT (the BB is part of the rear suspension arm & the “B” frame will not be, as the BB will “stay” on the main frame.

Here are the questions.

1) Given the fact that those 2 frames are equipped with the identical parts (suspension fork, parts, brakes…) will they ride differently?

2) If we cover the pivot, will anyone be able to recognize which witch is which, by just ridding the damn things?

3) So, given the fact that a URT may ride exactly the same as a non URT, just because both frames suspension arms are pivoting on the same axle, cannot we claim that if we are able to rotate an other URT design concentrically to the BB, it will ride as a non URT?
Or more correctly,
With this principle, won’t we be able to get rid of the stiffening of the rear suspension while descending, as soon as we stand on our pedals?

This is what the RAM bike does. The rear arm is suspended over a virtual point that is also the BB. So when the rider stands on the pedals the rear end does NOT stiffen!

This has nothing to do with the preferred suspension travel. In this apparatus, the wheelbase gets shorter as soon as the rear wheel axle crosses the BB height. At first and as long as the rear axle has not passed the BB, the wheelbase will increase. Then as the suspension arm travels through to the limits of it’s travel, the wheelbase will shorten.

For my (a personal preference) this is the only negative with Mr. Sheppard’s design. Everything else is brilliantly made! For once more congrats Richard!
  • 4 0
 Those pictures made me want to clean my room again.
  • 3 0
 Imagine your junk getting caught on that AWD mtb with long ass chain. Yikes!
  • 1 0
 Not to mention the black chain grease tattoos you will have for the rest of your life!
  • 1 0
 So did those special hubs on the adjustable tire air pressure system have an internal air chamber? Must have to in order to interrupt the pressure line from fixed to rotating?
  • 3 0
 I saw lots of weird products there, did I miss the wonderful ones?
  • 3 0
 NONE of that was wonderful!
  • 2 0
 Dr Ian Malcolm has some sage words on this:
  • 3 0
 55psi huh?
  • 4 0
The “low” pressure setting is higher than I run on any of my bikes...
  • 8 0
 55 pounds in my Minions, don't care about your opinions.
  • 1 0
 2WD EMB w a wireless connection. Weight doesn't matter cuz you're cheating anyway.
  • 2 0
 None of these look even remotely like a session, at all.
  • 2 0
 First bike looks like something from a Dr. Seuss book.
  • 1 0
 Such cool ideas! Very interesting article. Crazy but interesting lol.
  • 1 0
 rad...Heim made two of those things on the list!!
  • 1 0
 im sure i wouldn't get pants dirty on the 2 wheeldrive/17 chains bike!!
  • 1 0
 I like the idea of charging e bikes with pedal power.
  • 1 0
 A whole lot of solutions in search of a problem.
  • 1 1
 Mr Ophidian is going to need a lot of lube
  • 1 0
 Those long stroke shocks take quite a beating.
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